The coast is clear.
It’s time to make my move.
Baby is napping.
3 and 5 year old are playing together.
Everyone else is at shul with my husband.
I grab my Siddur and move as quietly as possible to a standing position, ready to take on Shemoneh Esrei; I’ve got this.
Of the many adjustments to motherhood over the years, shortening my davening, interrupting it and sometimes missing it altogether has been something that took time to get used to and at times still makes me feel uncomfortable.
Although I know that as a mother, I can interrupt my davening if necessary, I still try to avoid it when realistically possible. Shemoneh Esrei is the trickiest – and this was my lucky moment.
Standing facing mizrach, taking three steps backward and forward, I started my rather quick prayer.
And that’s when I heard it. Two little voices. They were playing nicely. Oh so sweetly.
“Now do my beard.”
“Ok, now you make me a beard.”
“And a mustache.”
“Now my eyebrows.”
“Make lines on my arms.”
“Yeah, I want just like that. Me too.”
Despite my attempted concentration on the words I’m saying, I notice my heart rate going up. A lot.
From where I’m standing, I don’t know if it’s a Sharpie, an Expo or just a regular marker. It is one of the greatest fears of all parents the world over; these options have huge differences in ramifications.
“Now my nails!”
“Make lines on my shirt.”
His shabbos shirt.
It’s shabbos. Markers. Their face, their clothes.
And here I am, in middle of Shemoneh Esrei.
Markers! Help! What next? What do to?
One of those motherhood moments that challenge the core of your existence.
And the big question – can I interrupt my davening for this? Should I?
I’m a mother, kids come first!
But…I take a deep breath.
Is it really urgent?
There’s nothing unsafe.
There’s no danger.
I’m the one who doesn’t like the markers.
And it’s Shabbos.
I want to yell. Really loud.
I want to grab the markers.
I want to tell them they will lose every treat this Shabbos. Maybe next Shabbos too.
They’re old enough to know this isn’t ok.
I look at my siddur.
I take a deep breath.
Reality is, it’s not urgent.
I decide it doesn’t qualify for an interruption.
And using every last bit of energy I have, I try to focus and look in my siddur like never before.
I hear the giggles. I can’t see it, but I know what’s going on.
And I hear Hashem’s loving message loud and clear.
You can tell them in a minute or two; when you’re done.
You can tell them calmly.
You can tell them with love.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Feeling Hashem holding my hand, I take the three steps back and forth and calmly conclude Shemoneh Esrei.
I take a deep breath.
I turn around to greet the giggling duo.
And I am calm.
And I take the markers away.
And we talk about the problems with what they did.
And they go wash up. And it doesn’t all come off.
And I don’t tell them they will be losing a months worth of Shabbos parties.
And I give them each a hug and give them something to eat.
And I think how my davening saved me.
How many times we put more energy than necessary in the wrong places.
Kids press our buttons. They’re practically wired to do that.
But we are the adults. And that means we are the ones who need to have the self control first; much quicker and much better than they do.
Suddenly I’m so grateful for those few minutes of Shemoneh Esrei.
My davening might not look like anything it used to two decades ago, but that doesn’t mean the connection has diminished. My focus and kavanah might be different, but the new language it holds has a greater impact than ever. I’m glad Hashem gave me the gift of the moment to breathe and not be reactive. I could actually deal with my kids the way they deserve, the way Hashem expects me too.
And I’m more determined than ever not to let go of my davening, even if it’s shorter and quicker than ever these days.